Sharing Economy: Can You Take It Too Far?

I definitely take part in the sharing economy. For example, I don’t own a car. When I need to use one, I either call a Lyft ride or do a peer rental from a site like Getaround. In the past, I’ve rented out a room in my apartment using AirBnb. I’ve definitely stayed in AirBnb rentals in the past.

With cars in particular, the sharing economy allows me the benefits of use without the hassles of ownership.

However, can you take this too far? A recent NPR report called The Affluent Homeless highlighted the extremes of the sharing economy.

How to Take the Sharing Economy to the Extreme

The NPR report describes the lifestyle of a young adult who makes as much use as possible of the sharing economy. Some of his methods include:

  • Using PodShare to rent a bed instead of renting his own apartment
  • Ditching car ownership in favor of ride share apps
  • Working at desk in a co-working space instead of in a traditional office

He also uses a variety of services and tools that aren’t necessarily part of the sharing economy but do complement it. For example, since he doesn’t have an apartment, he doesn’t own a washing machine. Therefore, he uses the laundry service at his gym for that. In fact, he doesn’t really have private storage so he uses the gym’s lockers as well.

Not that he needs to store much; he’s a minimalist who only owns two pairs of clothes and was thrilled to be able to give up his backpack as an unnecessary item.

Trading Physical Objects for Experiences and Digital Items

There was a time not so long ago when ownership was a big part of the American Dream. People wanted to own their own homes. People were happy to own their own cars. However, that’s shifting, and the sharing economy reflects that shift. People, particularly those in younger generations, simply don’t want to deal with owning a lot of physical stuff.

However, that doesn’t mean they don’t value anything. It’s just that they value experiences over ownership. For example, they might not want to own a bunch of outdoor equipment but happily rent or borrow it in order to experience a variety of outdoor adventures.

Additionally, NPR reports that these people do hoard things … they just do so digitally. The number of people who are proud of their record or CD collections is diminishing whereas the average person stores more music than ever before.

Why People Like the Sharing Economy

NPR suggests several reasons that people might like the rental and sharing economy as opposed to ownership. For many people, it could be that the sharing economy offers a personal touch. There’s a sense of community that all of us are lacking in this digital age. Sharing our items, even with strangers, provides a sense of connection.

Then again, if you’re one of those people who plans to take advantage of Uber’s new “silent mode” perhaps you aren’t motivated to use rideshares for their personal touch. This brings up the points that people embrace the sharing economy for different reasons.

Many people simply find it more convenient. Personally, I don’t ever want to deal with car ownership again. I find the whole thing to be a huge hassles. Choosing a car, paying for it, maintaining it, repairing it, parking it … it’s all stressful for me. I am lucky to live in a city where I can walk or use public transportation. I also like the added convenience of rideshares.

Does the Sharing Economy Save People Money?

Undoubtedly, there are some people who embrace the sharing economy because it’s a way to save money. Young people with student debt who are living in pricey cities need to cut back where they can. Therefore, they may opt to rent a bed as needed instead of renting an apartment or even their own room in an apartment. In some instances, they may have the money to afford to rent an apartment but would prefer to use that money on other things (particularly on experiences.)

So yes, the sharing economy can save people money. That’s one reason to do it. It’s one benefit of it. But it’s definitely not the only reason we’ve seen this shift take place.

What is your take on the sharing economy?

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